Joyce DiDonato: The Power in One Voice
by Brian Manternach
Over the past several years, Joyce DiDonato has proven to be one of the most important voices in opera. But in addition to her glorious mezzo sound, she is developing a reputation for being outspoken on current events and encouraging authenticity in both life and music.
Winner of the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Solo, she has appeared at many of the world’s most prestigious opera houses. She earned Gramophone Artist of the Year, a German Echo Klassik award as Female Singer of the Year, and an induction into the Gramophone Hall of Fame. Upcoming engagements will take her to Tokyo, New York City, Paris, Vienna, and London, to name only a few.
Though praised often for the strength and power of her voice along with the emotional impact of her artistry, she is also gaining a faithful following for more than her performing skills. Thanks to the wide reach of social media, her perspectives, sentiments, and reflections are being shared and admired among the public at large, almost at a level that rivals her opera fan base.
In 2013, DiDonato was invited to the Juilliard School to teach a masterclass. Once the question-and-answer portion of the event began, she engaged in what essentially became a heart-to-heart conversation with the young singers in attendance (www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7i5WKcqo4c). She encouraged them to silence the internal voice spouting self-demeaning criticism. In essence, stop berating themselves. “Ask yourself,” she said, “would I ever, ever speak to another human being the way I speak to myself?”
Striking a chord of familiarity with singers—and non-singers, too, for that matter—the comments quickly went viral.
Invited to give the commencement address at the same school in 2014, she used that platform to remind musicians how important and necessary their chosen career paths are to society: “The world needs you. Now, the world may not exactly realize it but, wow, does it need you! It is yearning, starving, dying for you and your healing offer of service through your art.” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfDpJkT4kts)
Once again, the video was widely shared on Facebook and Twitter.
But her advocacy does not end with championing young singers. Through the blog on her website
(joycedidonato.com/category/blog/), DiDonato frequently steps outside the operatic realm to address societal issues. She lends her voice to everything from confronting racism to lobbying for arts education and even petitioning for changes to U.S. gun laws.
Speaking to her from Zürich via Skype, our conversation coincidentally occurred on the day the U.S. Supreme Court declared bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Having previously written about her support for equality (joycedidonato.com/2013/09/05/5820/), DiDonato admitted to having difficulty pulling herself away from the TV for our scheduled interview.
“Ah! My gosh!” she exclaimed, barely restraining her excitement. “It’s amazing!”
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